In a race that kept city leaders on edge until the final precinct was reported Tuesday, Belton voters passed a half-cent sales tax increase with revenues going to the city’s strapped police and fire departments.
The measure will feature oversight by a committee which will include citizens to assure that the funds are used as intended. Half will go to police and half to fire.
Passage will allow both departments to proceed with hiring, bringing the forces back up to optimal level. Due to revenue shortages during the Fiscal 2018 budget year, which ended in March, hiring was frozen and several vacancies in each department went unfilled. The tax passed 4,055 to 3,884, 51.08 percent to 48.92 percent.
Belton voters also passed three Charter Revision questions, a process which must be repeated every 10 years. Critical measures changed the process for selecting a police chief from election to appointment. Belton remained one of the few major cities in the state to elect a police chief. James Person has served in the position since the 1980s, and is midway through a term that will expire in 2020. Beginning at the conclusion of Person’s term, the chief will be chosen in the same manner as other department heads – by the City Manager.
Voters also approved a question adding the City Manager as a non-voting member of the city’s independent park board.
In a countywide race closely watched by local residents, Belton Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fletcher, a Republican, defeated Democrat Janet Burlingame of Harrisonville, 23,692 to 18,799, 56-44 percent.
The race had drawn attention last week as Burlingame had discovered that Fletcher and his wife, Karen, a Belton School Board member, had for two years paid personal property taxes in Camden County instead of Cass. Fletcher said the 2016-2017 tax situation was a mistake and Cass County was paid last week.